Sunday, December 31, 2006

Day 1: Shopping & Sightseeing

Sunday, December 31, 2006. 5:00 AM IST (Indian Standard Time). After landing yesterday, we spent about 2 hours at the airport waiting for Nicole’s bags. They unfortunately were lost in the travel – somewhere. After pushing through a few crowds to get the necessary paperwork and approvals, we went to find our driver. The hotel provided a ride from the airport to the hotel, but nearly 3 hours after our scheduled arrival time I was slightly concerned that the driver would no longer be there. Amazingly he was! And there were actually two. We arrived at the hotel, checked in and went to bed by 5:00 AM.

Arriving a few days before the program officially begins has been nice. We went to several different shopping centers to find some clothes for Nicole. The variety of stores at the Ansel Plaza shopping center was unlike those we see in a typical US shopping mall. The first store we visited was GAPL. GAP tags and branding from the 1990s. This was clearly not a GAP store, but they had clothes at good prices. This was such a contrast to the Guess store that we later stopped by. The Guess store appeared to be managed according to Guess brand standards – branding, merchandising, pricing. As I understand it, only Indian companies are permitted to do business in India, which makes the number of Western businesses limited. However as in the case of Guess, if there is an Indian holding company for that location then it is acceptable.

After shopping, we decided to visit one of the many monuments here in Delhi. We went to Humayun’s Tomb, which is a great example of early Mughal architecture.
It served as great inspiration for the Taj Mahal. It is amazing to walk through the gardens and monuments here and think of how these buildings were constructed in the mid-1500s. Reading about all the efforts to conserve and improve the monuments at Humayun’s Tomb reminds me that it is not easy to maintain such places – especially for 500 years.

As our first day in India was a contrast of old and new: modern shopping and a visit to the monument. This makes me think of all the contrasts that really make up Delhi. There are Audi’s driving down the street passing the cart pulled by a mule. There are shanties built across the street from nice apartments. The hotel room and interior spaces are very clean while the streets are filthy. Finally, the people are both extremely nice (think of the driver who waited 3 hours) and extremely rude. All this will lead to a great two weeks and excellent stories.